The Pune City police launched an extensive probe into an alleged case of sexual harassment and ragging of multiple students, aged between six and eight, at a prominent school in Pune by a group of students from Class 10 and 11 of the same school after around 200 people, including parents of the affected children, congregated at the school and staged a protest on Monday.
Police have booked the principal of the school for allegedly failing to take action on the complaints received in this regard.
The police began a probe after a mother of a six-year-old boy, who is a student of Class 1 at the school, registered a complaint on Monday.
A senior official from the Pune police said that as per the FIR, the six-year-old boy was touched inappropriately and mentally harassed by a group of four to five students from Class 10 and 11, who also threatened to harm him if he told anyone about it. The complaint stated that the boy was being harassed since October 3.
Police said one of the suspects has been identified and others are in the process of being identified. The suspects are all minors, aged between 15 and 16 years.
Police have invoked provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act and the Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act against the suspects.
“While a probe has been started based on the case of the six-year-old boy from Class 1, we have reasons to believe that more students aged between six and eight have been sexually harassed and ragged in the same manner. At least three more have already come forward and the statements of their parents are being recorded,” said another police officer.
One of the activists who was part of the protest said, “Some of the students who were targeted stopped eating and eventually told their parents about what had happened. The parents approached the school authorities but the matter was repeatedly silenced. Everyone, from the teachers to the principal, knew about what was happening, that is why so many parents gathered today.”
“The complaint also suggests that the principal of the school failed to take action, despite getting multiple complaints from parents in this regard. The principal of the school has been booked under the relevant provisions of the Pocso Act, which makes a person in-charge of an institution liable for legal action when he or she fails to take cognizance of a complaint under Pocso Act,” the second police officer told Express.
The investigation of the case has been handed over to the in-charge inspector of the police station and the probe is being monitored by the Assistant Commissioner of Police and the Deputy Commissioner of Police of the area, Express has learnt.
Considering the sensitivity of the case, the police have roped in officials from the Child Welfare Committee of Pune and the Bharosa Cell—a unit of the Pune City police that addresses issues related to women and children.
Meanwhile, the trust that manages the school has said that the principal of the school has been suspended pending an inquiry. A release issued by the school trust said, “The school management has never brushed under the rug the safety and security of students. We have 80 CCTV cameras installed in the school for safety. Our teachers and support staff keep a close watch on students to ensure there is no untoward incident. The principal has been suspended pending further inquiry and the police are investigating the matter further.”